Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Unforgivable Sin – Those Against God

“Therefore I tell you, people will be forgiven for every sin and blasphemy, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.”

~Matthew 12:31 (NRSV).

This issue is loaded like a cannon and ready for complete misinterpretation—as many have been caused to misuse or feel condemned by it. Let’s get it clear that this is not about flippant blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.

Rather it is the “deliberate perversion of the truth” in a way that’s a “settled decision to oppose the work of God.”[1] That, in sum, in this context that Jesus was in, was the Pharisees. To go to one’s death virulent in opposition to the Holy Spirit’s power and work is to welcome the gates of hell.

Assuaging Our Own Guilt

We have all blasphemed God. That issue is not in doubt and that’s something we’re found pardoned for, without doubt.

Jesus’ situation was one where the Pharisees were throwing every dark trick imaginable against the Holy Spirit’s ministry in and through him. The accusations levelled at Jesus were inflammatory tantamount to death; had Jesus not turned the issue back on them with holy cunning as he did, he may well have found himself going to the cross earlier... of course, that was not the Father’s plan!

Thinking of the Pharisees’ action to ensnare Jesus—here and at other times—it is easy to see their viciousness against the work of God. These blind guides were thrust forward to evil so much it’s difficult to contrast them with an equivalent in today’s terms—a group overt in ‘said’ stance for God, yet so much against the Spirit’s purposes.

Well, we know the false teachers that Jesus and the apostles wrote of fit into this category; those teachers preaching one thing and living clearly another... to the point of utter dichotomy.

Our focus is on knowing that normal (i.e. penitent) belief is forgiven unconditionally.

Who is Left Unforgiven?

The unforgivable sin is the action of the person actively worshipping Satan; the one doing his dirty work against the kingdom of God. That is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

Who are these people in today’s terms? There are some who, like these First Century Pharisees who sought to trip Jesus up, might say they’re fervently for God, but their very activities in discouraging and dissuading the work of God are working against Kingdom purposes. This is a heart turned hard; a heart turned against certain devices or methods God might be using... in a word, legalism.

These, ironically, are the ‘ministers’ quick to judge others’ action and intent as heretical, especially if those they judge are authentic workers in the Kingdom. Whoever is not against the kingdom of God is for it (Mark 9:40). Workers for the Kingdom are never beyond reproach; they should be ready to give an account for their ministries. No one ever ministers without fault—theologically or in practice. That is, however, forgivable.

The saved person who is actively working against the devil’s purposes is for God—their forgiveness is assured, no matter what they’ve said or done in the past to the contrary!

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

[1] R.T. France, Matthew – New Bible Commentary (Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press, 1953, 1954, 1970, 1994), p. 920.

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